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Health and safety

Hidden health issues

Almost half (extrapolated) of workers in the UK’s manufacturing industry have a hidden health issue that they have never disclosed to their employers, with younger employees the most likely to withhold information from their bosses, according to new research.

A survey of 1,000 employees, carried out by Benenden Health, revealed that 46% of respondents working in UK manufacturing have a health issue they have never revealed to their employer. Nationwide, some 63% of Generation Z (16-23 years) and 60% of Millennials (24-38 years) surveyed said that they haven’t told their employers about a health issue, compared to 35% of Generation X (39-54 years) and 18% of Baby Boomer (55-72 years) respondents.

The survey also revealed that almost a sixth of workers in manufacturing (15%) thought that they wouldn’t be hired if they’d told their employers they had a health issue. Younger workers were more concerned about the impact on their employability, with 12% of Generation Z employees and 18% of Millennials nationally saying that this was a concern, compared to just nine per cent of Generation Xers and three per cent of Baby Boomers. 

Additionally, a quarter (24%) of respondents in the industry said that they had had to lie to their employer about taking time off for an appointment and half (50%) of employees don’t even feel comfortable talking to their employers about their personal health.
Benenden Health, which also surveyed 1,000 UK SMEs on their health and wellbeing offering for employees, is calling on business owners to open communication channels with their staff and consider the health needs of their workforce to support a healthy team, increase retention and reduce unexpected absences. 

“With our research showing that SMEs would sooner recruit a 55-year-old than a 24-year-old with the same CV, younger workers are already at risk of being overlooked for roles, without having to worry about their health impacting on their employability,” said Benenden Health.

The data also highlighted the importance of benefit packages in attracting new recruits to a business. When questioned, two thirds of respondents in the manufacturing sector (67%) said a strong health and wellbeing programme would increase their likelihood to join or stay with a business, with almost a third (31%) saying they would be willing to take a less well-paid job if it had a strong health and wellbeing package in place.

“Yet, despite this, 67% of SMEs in the sector don’t offer a healthcare package for employees above statutory allowances, with 39% of these saying that they don’t consider a health and wellbeing package valuable in recruiting staff,” added the company.

“Hidden health issues can impact absence rates, productivity and the general wellbeing of staff and so it is vital that workplaces act now to protect their business interests, as well as their workforce’s, especially if they want to attract young talent into their company,” explained Helen Smith, Chief Commercial Officer of Benenden Health.

“We are calling for businesses to have a clear reporting process for employees to seek support from the senior team which, if supported by a tailored wellbeing programme that recognises the different needs of a multigenerational workforce, can help to increase productivity and promote a happier and healthier workforce.”

Benenden Health is a not-for-profit society with a UK-wide membership of over 815,000, founded in 1905 to bring people together to help pay for medical care when they might need it. 

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